Friday, 9 July 2010

policing and social media

I wrote a piece on the SML blog today about ways in which police forces are using, and can use, social media. Until I dug around today I wasn't aware quite how much some of the forces are using various forms of social media. The Met (surprise surprise!) is lagging way behind some of the county forces.

A couple of further points I meant to mention: firstly, police forces could learn a lot from some of the better customer service case studies, like EasyJet's use of Twitter. That said, given the volume of wind-up and malicious communications which can be made via social media, care should be given to spending vast resources responding to anonymous communications and criticisms.

Care must be given to who is given access to official social media streams, and how it is audited - police forces don't want a Vodafone incident.

Lauri Stevens (thanks for the retweet) is an expert on such issues Stateside and has written plenty of articles on the subject, including a terrific one here about the social media reaction to the recent G20 summit in Toronto. She makes several important points, which have given me a couple more thoughts.

There will always be huge volumes of social media conversations surrounding police activity, and most of them will be negative. From opinions at a micro level ("why didn't the police answer my call quicker?") to the macro ("police are terrorising innocent civilians" or simply "ACAB"-type posts), there will be thousands of rational and irrational opinions given every day. Police forces had better have a thick skin. The measurement/monitoring aspect of things can give a tangible metric of how opinions can be changed by a combination of communications and practical operational techniques changing. For example, an analysis of social media chatter around the May Day protests - where plenty of opinions are voiced about police - could be done one year, measuring volume and overall sentiment of conversations. This could be repeated the following year to give quantitative comparisons.

Lauri Stevens says "engagement is king", which is true in my opinion, and praised Toronto Police for communicating with "anyone and everyone who engaged them". This may be shooting themselves in the foot. ocial media is rife with hyperbole and hysteria; there will be many arguments which are unwinnable, simply because they are with people who are Always Right. The recent campaign by Greenpeace to bombard the Nestle Facebook page provides a case in point; police social media strategists might do well to take some tips from this article.

Finally, a word on a one-stop-shop case study: PC Ed Rogerson's Twitter page. No comment required; it's brilliant. Not sure how many officers would have the inclination do do likewise, and there should be some pretty strict regulations to ensure nobody goes off message (I am uncomfortable with officers updating their Facebook status via their phones whilst on duty) but Rogerson shows how it should be done.

Live update: as I watch the dramatic events unfold in Rothbury with, I must admit, a little bit of an excited schoolboy thrill, how about this for a use of social media. It was instantly retweeted extensively - I wonder if it was actually an effective way of getting their message to the media?

1 comment:

  1. Hello Eoghan, Nice to meet you - we are @CanadianPolice Please do check out our blog on this topic located at

    Thanks and hope to see you drop by :)